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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 23 January 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Health Service Changes (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde), European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, Decision Time, Unpaid Trial Shifts


Point of Order

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

Presiding Officer, I wish to raise a point of order in relation to chapter 13 of the standing orders, including rule 13.2.

Last week the Scottish Government announced that it had approved proposals to close the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra hospital. Many local families are devastated by that decision and it is only right that it receives the fullest possible parliamentary scrutiny.

There will shortly be a ministerial statement on the closure, but the Scottish Government should have given families, parents and national health service staff the courtesy of a statement as soon as the cabinet secretary was in a position to make an announcement. Instead, the closure was announced in an answer to a Government-inspired written question, lodged on Thursday when Parliament was sitting, with an answer that was snuck out at 2.03 pm on a Friday afternoon when Parliament was not sitting, and when the Government was advising people to leave work early due to adverse weather conditions.

Instead of trying to bury bad news, the Government could and should have given prior notice to families and staff that a decision of such importance was imminent and would be announced directly to Parliament.

Presiding Officer, I ask that you consider whether the use of a Government-inspired question was appropriate in this case, and whether its use by the Government to make such announcements should be reviewed. Can you also confirm that no request by the minister for a statement was made to you on Thursday under rule 13.2?

That decision should have been announced to this Parliament in this Parliament. Surely the way that the Scottish Government has chosen to announce the closure is discourteous to members and, more importantly, is deeply disrespectful to those who depend on the children’s ward at the RAH.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

I thank the member for the advance notice of the point of order. As the member will be aware, the guidance on announcements sets out good practice that should be followed by the Scottish Government when informing the Parliament; it is intended to help the Scottish Government to decide which method is the appropriate one by which to make an announcement. I raised the member’s concerns about the particular issue at today’s Parliamentary Bureau meeting. We had a useful discussion about decisions more generally on which method to use to make an announcement. The Bureau has made its views known, and that will help to inform future decisions by the Government. In this case, the Bureau has agreed to schedule a ministerial statement on the issue this afternoon, following topical question time. That will allow members to question the cabinet secretary on the decisions.